National Forum/Exhibition „Social Services, Employment and Development“
In June 8 to 10 2016 in Varna city, Golden Sands resort a national forum and exhibition on “Social Services, Employment and Development”, organized by National Alliance for Social Responsibility in a partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, European Assosiation of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), National Association of Municipalities of R Bulgaria and Varna Municipality. Over 200 representatives of national and local authorities, non-governmental organizations, employers, service providers, social service teams and clients attended the forum.
The agenda of the first day included an advisory meeting on Social Services of NASO and Agency of Social Assistence whereas a variety of matters concering social service provision, work with clients and quality of service were discussed at extremely high expert level. You can read more about this meeting here.
The agenda on June 9 started with the opening of social service exhibition. 22 social services took part in it presending the products and goods made by social service users. The guests noted the high quality of work, creativity and innovation of used materials, technics and art approaches. Social service users had the opportunity to present their work to the official guests. The exhibition could be seen during the whole day and besides forum participants, many tourists and visitos of Golden Sands also had the chance to view and talk with users and some of them even bought souvenirs made by the users.
Mr Georgi Georgiev, NASO president, welcomed the participants and thanked the attendees as well as all NASO members for their daily successful support to people in need. “Close to 2000 structures covering 100% of Bulgaria territory, 1400 social services supporting over 33 thousand people are standing behind NASO mission. Social services of NASO members provide 13 000 work places,” pointed out Mr. Georgiev and expressed his strong belief that the joint efforts will create development opportunities and will continue partnership building aiming better social work and better quality of life. He pointed out that the employment on open labour market would be the leading highlight of the forum.
“Partnership between government, local authorities and NGOs creates effective policies for persons with disabilities,” pointed out Mr. Ivaylo Ivanov, deputy minister of labour and social policy in his address. He stated that this forum is a platform where positive ideas come and grow into legal changes. “The right of employment is a natual human right and persons with disabilities must have equal rights as everyone else,” said Mr. Luk Zeldreloo, EASPD secretary general during the opening. Mr. Stoyan Pasev, Varna District Governor, Mr. Kosta Bazitov, Deputy Mayor of Varna, Dr. Lidia Marinova, Deputy Chairpreson of Varna Municipal Council, Mr. Ivan Tabakov, Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also welcomes the participants and partnership development was leading direction in their speeches.
Following the official welcomes, the forum continued with an advisory panel whereas all participants had the opportunuting to ask questions to deputy minister Ivanov. This panel was the first advisory meeting of NASO and Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. Over 20 speakers and more than 50 questions were asked during this session. Those questions covered a variety of problems of social support, social services, employment of people with special needs, education and labour markets needs, home-based service development, quality of social staff, etc. Deputy Minister Ivanov thanked for all questions, which he qualified as extremely important. NASO will submit to the Ministry all questions and opinions in written and MLSP is going to provide written answers to all of them.
The next session on June 9 continued part of the topics set during the advisory meeting with a highlight on the employment on the open labor market. Ivaylo Naydenov, state expert of MLSP presented the national legal framework of employment of persons with disabilities while the new deputy executive director of the Employment Agency – Ms. Tatyana Pashinoa, presented the efforts of EA on providing employment services for persons with special needs. Mr. Valentin Damyanov, regional representative of the Agency for Disabled People completed the review of the Bulgarian context of employment. All the speeches showed that there are efforts to improve the employment situation of disabled people but their unemployment rate is around 95%, therefore, different approaches are needed. Mr Luk Zelderloo, EASPD secretary general had the key speech in this panel. From the very beginning, he pointed out that unemployment concerns people with disabilities a lot more than any other target group. He presented the importanc of investing in employment – for economic and social reasons, and granting human rights and personal identity.
At the closing of the panel, Mr. Georgiev summarized the general ideas, thesis, questions and proposals requiring complete and quick revision of legal framdework and its adaptation to the modern European strategies, action plans and regulations. He made an appeal for several changes: practical implementation of supported employment, regulation and partial implementation of sheltered employment, defining the employment in specialized enterprises, legal definition of social enterprises and organizing all responsible parties to support employment on the open labour market for persons with disabilities. Until the end of the first day, the participants attended practical workshops in art-therapy and could make different products together with social service users.
The third day of the forum has two panels – first devoted to funding possibilities, presented by MLSP expert, and the second one – to international cooperation and European semester. Mr. Zelderloo made a review of the general framework of the European Semester and EASPD activities on it and presented the topic of the annual report for 2016 – employment. NASO reminded participants that during the last two years has submitted such alternative reports and pointed out the success from 2015 whereas NASO recommendation for integration of social services and employment efforts was taken into consideration on behalf of the European Commission.
The forum was closed with thanks to all participants for their active inclusion in the discussions and the joint work. Mr. Georgiev pointed out that the forum has been one of the most powerful and significant events in a serie of NASO initiatives directed to improve the employment opportunities for disabled people in Bulgaria. Mr. Georgiev also reminded that NASO work wouldnot end with forum itself but will continue until effective results are obtained.